Going into this program I was very scared; going to a different country alone and not dominating the language made me second guess whether studying abroad was a good idea or not at times. Although I was excited to go to Italy and I had always wanted to visit after seeing how beautiful it is and loving Italian food as much as I do, I did not like the fact that I’d be going by myself for what seemed like a very long time to me. I was scared of the unknown and questioned my decision many times. As it kept getting closer for me to leave the US, I felt so many emotions I didn’t think I could feel all at the same time; I was happy, sad, scared, excited… You know the girl from the movie inside out? Yep, that was me. Sometimes I wished that I could put it off and sometimes I just wanted to get it over with. Obviously at that time I didn’t realize that I was in for an unforgettably awesome experience.
It took courage for me to leave my comfy house, my job and all the commodities that I had in the US but deep down I knew that this would end up being a life changing experience and that I would not regret it one bit. On May 14th 2016, I arrived to Italy at night after a long 20+ hour flight including layover in London. I still felt uneasy about my decision to study abroad but it was too late to back down. I was exhausted and jet lagged from the time change, and being there for a month and a half seemed like a long time to me. Our apartment was located in Florence, about ten minutes away from Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore and less than five minutes away from the Basilica of Santa Croce.
On my first day being there I started noticing how much I actually liked the city of Florence. Everything was so beautiful, there were fresco ceilings in stores, apartments, everywhere and I did not mind them at all. It also surprised me to see how different it was compared to the United States; streets and sidewalks were very narrow, the cars were smaller, people walked and biked a lot and the famous Vespa bikes were abundant. We didn’t have a dryer for our clothes in the apartment as they are not very common in Italy, we had to be very mindful of our electricity usage and couldn’t use two big appliances at the same time and we didn’t have a central AC/heater. It was truly fascinating to experience something that I was not used to, I was definitely outside of my comfort zone but I liked it.
I quickly learned about Piazza Michaelangelo, which is a place where you get the best view of the city of Florence. This piazza became my go to place in Florence; I loved watching the sunrise or sunset from there. Most of the time I would find random bands playing music there and that made it so much more special. If you keep going up you’ll find the Giardino di Rose, which is a beautiful flower garden. It is very peaceful there and a good break from the city, you might find a lot of people napping and just relaxing there.
On my first Wednesday there I had a tour around the markets in Florence:
Mercato di San Lorenzo
First I visited the San Lorenzo market, this is an outdoor market where they sell local arts and leather; this is the place where you want to buy your leather from. When shopping at the San Lorenzo market keep in mind that you can bargain with the seller, especially when buying leather products which can be expensive. It is very competitive there because there are many different vendors you can go to so most likely the seller you are talking to will be willing to drop the price just to not lose your business to the next vendor. In my case, I was able to get the seller to drop the price to more than 50% off on a leather bag. Something else to keep in mind is that there is the possibility that what they try to sell you is not genuine leather; even if the particular item has a logo that says genuine leather make sure to do your homework and be prepared to know how to distinguish real from fake leather.
This market is located besides the San Lorenzo market. This is an indoor market where you can find the freshest foods. The first floor has quality spices, meats, seafood, fruits, ethnic food and more while the second floor has different small restaurants that serve fresh and quality food. Mercato Centrale was one of my favorite places in Florence, the food is delicious and affordable there; I tried my first pesto pasta there and loved it, there is also an Eataly mini market there where you can find specialty foods.
Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio
The Sant’ Ambrogio market is where you can find fresh produce, meats and seafood; some vendors also sell clothing. It is much more smaller than the Mercato Centrale but the atmosphere is different; it’s more relaxed, less crowded and Florentines abound at this market, which is a good sign. The market is usually open Monday through Saturday until 2pm, make sure you get there early to pick out the freshest produce. When shopping at the Saint Ambrogio market and at any market in Italy, try not to touch the produce with your bare hands, this is really frowned upon by Italians.
I spent the rest of my first week in Italy exploring the city of Florence, indulging in gelato and falling in love with my new home.
For more of my travel photography, check out the full album here https://www.ruthterrerophoto.com/client-albums